We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Brian’s Friday – Zoom

The Life of Brian: A Reception to Celebrate the Life of Brian Micklethwait event at the Institute of Economic Affairs tomorrow will be available on Zoom for anyone who cannot attend. Link here.

Samizdata quote of the day

The deforestation statistics are startling to anybody who listens only to green activists. In 2018 a team from the University of Maryland concluded: ‘We show that – contrary to the prevailing view that forest area has declined globally – tree cover has increased by 2.24 million km². That’s 7 percent more forest globally than in 1982. New forests have been planted and old ones have regenerated naturally, as the footprint of farming shrinks, thanks to better yields.

Matt Ridley in the print version of The Spectator, article titled Viral misinformation.

This is what so many libertarians cannot understand…

So many libertarians, such as the good fellows at Reason magazine for example (who I do like, I hasten to add), have a simplistic, dare I say dualistic notion about bad-things-done-by-private-business and bad-things-done-by-the-state. One is met with “so start up a rival company” the other with “an outrageous example of state overreach that must be opposed politically.”

And in an ideal world, yes, that makes sense. We do not live in anything resembling an ideal world.

In an era when three (two really) credit card companies and a handful of payment processors have an off-switch for pretty much any on-line business they take a dislike to (unless they are called Apple or Amazon), as more and more of the economy goes virtual, what we have is turn-key tyranny for sale to the highest bidder, and the highest bidder is always going to be a state. I am uncertain what the solution is, but as we do not live in a ‘free market’, not convinced “so go set up your own global credit card and payment processing network” adds anything meaningful to the discussion. It is a bit like saying when the local electric provider turns off the power in your office (or home) because they disapprove of what you are doing “so go set up your own electric supply company”, as if that would be allowed to happen.

Fascism is the organised attempt to introduce socialist planning with the consent of big business

– Edward Conze (1934)

The era of Covid-totalitarianism

Michael Rectenwald has written a very interesting essay Living in the Age of Covid: “The Power of the Powerless” that raises many very alarming parallels, musing on the original essay by Václav Havel The Power of the Powerless.

Just as the greengrocer was compelled to display signs of his loyalty under Soviet bloc communism, signs transmitting semantic content to which he was indifferent, so the covid citizen is compelled to display signs of compliance and complicity under the covid regime. The signs have included donning the mask and, increasingly, displaying the vaccine passport—to take part in society. And, as under communism, these displays are compulsory rituals. What function do they serve?

Let us take note: if the covid citizen were compelled to wear a sign that said, “I am afraid, therefore unquestionably obedient,” he would not be nearly as indifferent to its semantics, even though the statement would reflect the truth. The covid citizen would be embarrassed and ashamed to don such an unequivocal statement of his own degradation, and quite naturally so, for he is a human being and thus has a sense of his own dignity. To overcome this complication, his expression of fidelity must take the form of a sign which, at least on its surface, indicates a level of credulousness in the covid regime. It must allow the covid citizen to say, “What’s wrong with the vaccine passport? The experts say that the vaccine is necessary, for my health and that of others.” Thus, the vaccine passport helps the covid citizen to conceal from himself the low foundations of his obedience, while at the same time concealing the low foundations of power. The vaccine passport hides them both behind the façade of something high. And that something is ideology.

The [indented] text above is my revision of a passage from Havel’s essay—with “the covid citizen” and “vaccine passport” of the covid regime replacing the greengrocer and the greengrocer’s sign of the Soviet regime. The point is to show, mutatis mutandis, the substitutability of terms. Although the vaccines have shown some efficacy at mitigating the effects of the virus, they neither protect their recipients from infection and disease nor prevent them from spreading it. And the dangers of the vaccines are not all known, although many short-term side effects, including death, have been documented. The vaccines may also be driving antibody-dependent enhancement, and, with the selective pressure they put on the virus, the production of mutations (variants). The vaccines are, after all, “state of emergency” measures, rushed into use before the necessary scientific testing to gauge their efficacy or ensure their safety could be done. Thus, they are anything but “science”—if by “science” we mean unhampered and open inquiry using the scientific method. The vaccine passport thus serves an ideological function, just like the greengrocer’s sign.

Read the whole thing.

Very interesting on-the-ground report from Kabul

Very interesting chat between CNN’s international correspondent Clarissa Ward in Afghanistan and Freddie Sayers of Unherd. This is great stuff and why independent media is so valuable.

The history of the decline and fall of conservatism

The fifth stage is the crisis which has resulted not so much from Brexit as from Covid. Brexit was a revolt of a new Country party against the Court party of almost all assembled authorities, including both Labour and Conservative authorities. After some dithering, Johnson chose to side with Country. Hence 2016. But Covid has broken all of the traditions of opposition I have sketched thus far. For it is the Conservative Party – no matter how reluctantly – which stands at the head of a unified Court party which has done more than anyone since Walpole has done to ignore the Country, and not only ignore it, but oppress it. Johnson has presided over the establishment of an entirely technocratic politics of problem-and-solution which is, alas, not a politics at all, but the substitution of technique for politics. In this situation, the Government appears to be as committed as the opposition is to a unified politics of Universal Lockdown and Universal Vaccination and Universal Carbon Elimination in which no one is defending any aspect of the old order (including the church or universities) or even liberalism itself. The Conservatives have no longer got anything to defend. They have capitulated to their enemies and done it with a grotesque hyper-Disraelian-Bismarckian-Maoist-Malthusian flourish by way of forcing us to take the knee, take the mask and take the jab. They are not Tory, not liberal, certainly not even ‘austere’. They have found a magic money tree. They are presumably waiting for the seas to turn into lemonade. They are locking us into a magnificently communist-corporate hybrid order which will make the public-private partnerships of Blair and Brown look extremely pallid. If this continues then the only conservative thing about the Conservatives will be their inclination to hold on to their name.

Dr. James Alexander

This is an excellent essay specifically about the grotesquely misnamed Conservative Party in the UK, but some of it applies to other notionally ‘conservative’ groups elsewhere, particularly in the Anglosphere.

Samizdata quote of the day

This was always the West’s problem in Afghanistan: it lacked faith in the very values it claimed to be delivering to that benighted country. We will liberate women from life under the burqa, Western officials said. But isn’t it ‘Islamophobic’ to criticise the burqa, or any other Islamic practice for that matter? Our elites have insisted for years that it is. We will replace your intolerant Islamist system with a civil society fashioned by clever professors, the West promised. But isn’t it judgemental and possibly a tad racist – certainly an offence against the ideology of multiculturalism – to imply that Western democracy is superior to Islamist theocracy? As one British think-tank says, in its definition of the term ‘Islamophobia’, it is wrong to suggest that Islam is in any way ‘inferior to the West’. The West’s post-9/11 bluster was continually undermined by the West’s broader descent into moral relativism. How can you assert the civilisational authority of Western values when your entire educational and university system is devoted to questioning and demeaning Western civilisation? You cannot partake in a clash of civilisations if you loathe your own civilisation.

Brendan O’Neill

Why the Taliban won in one image

I was in favour of the initial post-9/11 campaign and frankly do not regret that. But as I and quite a few others said back in the day, the time for declaring victory and getting out came many years ago. The objective should never have been ‘nation building’, and this was not ‘for the Afghan people’, but rather a reprisal for the 9/11 attacks; a punitive mission rather than a forever war on ‘terrorism’. That should have been it. Make the point then let the perpetual civil war resume with a salutary reminder to keep the fight local. Oh well. As with Iraq, I vastly overestimated the ability of the ruling class in the USA to actually focus on what mattered (not that the UK version is any better, it is just the consequences of our own clown-class are rather less global than when their American counterparts screw the pooch for decades).

And so, the political masters of the now laughably mis-named ‘free world’ fly absurd flags, fretting about people being mis-gendered whilst the USA loses its longest war ever to a bunch of goat botherers with a good command of practical chemistry. Communo-fascist China must be wetting themselves with laughter. It is like a snuff movie set to a Benny Hill soundtrack.

You would have to credulous not to see this as as consequence of political pressure

Richard Tice, of Reform UK, has refuted Metro Bank’s claims that the party’s bank account was suspended as it was “no longer commercially viable”. Speaking at a press conference in Westminster, Mr Tice, 56, told journalists the suspension of the party’s bank account was a politically motivated act.

You would have to be remarkably naïve to think Metro Bank was not leaned on to undermine the primary electoral threat to Tory marginal seats. If they manage to eliminate Reform UK in this manner, the only way to express displeasure with the Tory Party is to vote for the even more monstrous Labour Party.

I am not currently planning on doing a tactical vote to try and destroy the Tory Party, so if Reform UK still exist come next election I will probably vote for them even though they will not win. But if they do not exist… who knows? As many have observed as of late, after the last year and a half, the differences between the Stupid Party and the Evil Party have narrowed very considerably, so perhaps the unthinkable is becoming thinkable.

Routing around censorship

The vulnerability of people expressing their views via other people’s platforms was pointed out by Glenn Reynolds back in the fairly early days of blogging when almost every blogger was hosted on a blogger.com site, with a .blogspot.com at the end (can’t find Glenn’s remark to that effect online but first half of the 2000’s I think). And .blogspot.com sites steadily became slow and buggy as hell. This technical risk largely ended when people moved away from the increasingly unreliable and clunky hosting and set up MoveableType or later WordPress sites hosted all over the place.

But by 2010, blogs were no longer at the centre of what was now being called ‘social media’, with Facebook and Twitter being where the mass eyeballs were, blogs becoming more of a niche thing. This brings us back to the risks Glenn warned of, but dialled up to 11 this time, with less technical and more political concerns.

I am seeing an interesting development in response to Big Tech shutting down voices dissenting from The Narrative, with people taking their discussions away from curated platforms like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook (who still get to act legally as if they are not curated platforms)… and onto Telegram groups, like for example the delightfully named Slightly Offensive (with posts like this) or global anti-lockdown stickerists White Rose.

These groups are somewhat clunky and it is harder to spread interesting post via links (they are more phone/desktop app oriented rather than web-friendly), but this does show the social media landscape is still changing.

Lockdowns probably don’t work because the alternative scenario they supposedly protect against isn’t real

Lockdowns are claimed to be “effective” against a modelled counter-factual of mass deaths if they aren’t done. If the counter-factual is wrong then lockdowns by definition cannot be “effective”. And we know the counter-factuals are very wrong because model predictions keep being falsified, over and over, most recently with UK freedom day. Note that all the models for COVID at the start were predicting a single giant wave. They couldn’t predict anything else because they assumed only lockdowns can stop epidemics and that otherwise a virus will simply keep spreading exponentially until 100% of the population has been infected. With no understanding of natural immunity, nor for how long SARS-CoV-2 had really been spreading in the population before mass testing started, they had to make this assumption in order to make predictions, but it renders their model useless. They ended up confidently asserting nonsensical scenarios on the back of very incomplete scientific understanding, something which our broken and brainwashed society was totally unable to push back against.

So: lockdowns probably don’t work because the alternative scenario they supposedly protect against isn’t real, because they’re based on bad understandings of probability and biology, and because the germ theory on which lockdown theory rests appears to be incomplete. And underneath it all, because the “experts” who push this theory know no more about viruses or disease than you or I do.

Norman Powers, in a comment under an article with a somewhat different article rather different topic Will Trump bring down DeSantis?

A huge crack appears in the media’s narrative dam

This is nothing less than the highest circulation newspaper not just in Germany but all Europe publicly repenting their role in spreading state propaganda and fake news. This is from 28 May 2021, and yet I only heard about this today; the fact it was not front page news across the world is very revealing indeed.

(turn on translation subtitles if you do not understand German. Also, partial transcript here in English and French)